How many bad breath remedies can you name? If you grew up watching television, a few common ones probably come to mind immediately, things like gum, mints or sprays. You know the advertisements: someone's halitosis interferes with a date, job interview or big event (like a graduation ceremony). But just when oral odor is about to ruin the day, the product saves it! While these ads are right about the power of bad breath to get you ostracized, the chances are good that such commercials overinflate the power of their products.
After all, if common remedies for bad breath really work, why do we continue to get oral odor, over and over again? And honestly, has a stick of sugar-sweetened gum ever rescued your graduation? Come on. Let's be reasonable. There are many bad breath remedies out there, but very few that get results.
The key to recognizing an effective halitosis treatment when you see it is to know what causes oral odor in the first place. It all starts with bacteria, which populate your mouth by the billions.
Studies have shown that your palate is home to about 600 different species of microbes. And that's just the number of strains. The total amount of microorganisms crawling over your tongue and teeth tops the number of humans walking the face of the Earth.
Fortunately, many of these bacteria are harmless. A few are even helpful, but not many. Plenty of oral bacteria do damage to your teeth, cause gingivitis, lead to canker sores and, of course, crank out bad breath by the bushel.
However, these little creatures don't create halitosis in vacuum. They need two things in order to make oral odor: lots of food and very little moisture.
Most people know that food can cause bad breath, at the very least because certain pungent dishes (like those containing garlic or onions) are pretty much guaranteed to make your mouth smell like a hot dumpster the night before garbage day. But oral microbes also need food to live.
They subsist on whatever you eat, digesting proteins, fats, oils and other particles, and emitting foul-smelling compounds as a byproduct. It is these molecules that you smell when you get a whiff of bad breath. Common bad breath remedies, like cheap mints and gums, just mask these odors. The best specialty breath freshening products neutralize odor compounds and attack the bacteria that produce them.
Here, then, is a brief list of bad breath remedies, complete with a rough rating of their effectiveness:
- Water (good). The Mayo Clinic recommends this one, and for good reason. Anaerobic bacteria love a dry mouth, hence the strong reek of morning breath after a night of mouth breathing. Stay hydrated and minimize your risk of halitosis.
- Spices (poor). MSN Health has stated that eating spicy foods can cover up oral odor, but most experts warn that such dishes are just as likely to give you halitosis (and indigestion to boot).
- Avoiding smoking, coffee, alcohol, etc (good). As a bonus, this remedy can improve your dental health and general well-being.
- Regular gums or mints (poor). Not only do these products do a bad job of covering the scent, but their ingredients can give oral bacteria something to munch on.
- Brushing and flossing (excellent). Need we say more?
- Parsley (fair). While chewing this garnish can reduce your oral odor for a little while, this may be the least inviting bad breath remedy we've ever heard of.
- Specialty breath freshening rinses, pastes and gums (excellent). These top-of-the-line products often use ingredients like chlorhexidine, zinc and xylitol to eliminate bad breath in a snap.
- K12 and M18 Oral Care Probiotics kits (excellent). When used in conjunction with other specialty bad breath remedies, probiotics can keep halitosis away for weeks on end.